The Other Side of the Table // Satmar Cheder
I was a young kid, before bar mitzvah, on the day of the farher. The Satmar Rebbe, the Berach Moshe, was coming to the Satmar cheder to farher the boys.
It was a big event, the air rippling with emotion as the Rebbe entered the building. In our classroom, the melamed had come up with an innovative way to make sure the Rebbe would have nachas from the results. The melamed had positioned all of the boys around the table, but rather than the usual seating, he put the “better” boys, the baalei kishron and ones who knew the material well, on one side. The second side of the table was for the ones who probably couldn’t answer the questions well. When the Rebbe entered, the melamed maneuvered things so the Rebbe was facing the bright talmidim.
Those boys felt great, of course, while the ones relegated to the second side of the table felt lousy about themselves.
I’m not telling you which side I was on, but I remember the moment like it was yesterday: Rather than follow the melamed’s plan, the Rebbe came around to face the boys on the second side of the table. And as if he realized exactly what the melamed had done, he asked them questions too — easier questions, more basic yedios that they could all answer. Of course they felt great answering the Rebbe’s questions, and when he left the room, everyone felt much taller.
He had been in there for just a few minutes, but on that day, the Satmar Rebbe sent a lesson that remains with me, and inspires me still.
Rabbi Moshe Aron Hoffman, Mosdos Satmar
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